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“More of the Same” on Cattle Operations

April 4, 2014
Heifers Line
Uniformity or consistency may be desirable in both management and marketing aspects of cattle production.   

By: Jane Parish, Extension Beef Cattle Specialist, Mississippi State University

The phrase "more of the same" gives an impression of a lack of progress, not changing from the status quo or not improving. More of the same can mean not adopting new technologies or not adapting to current and projected conditions and, in that sense, can be detrimental on cattle operations. Yet more of the same can also refer to increasing uniformity and may be beneficial in several ways. Uniformity or consistency may be desirable in both management and marketing aspects of cattle production.

More of the Same Genetics

Consider a brood cow herd and ask these questions, "How consistent and predictable are my cattle from individual to individual?" and "How much variation in type and kind is present in the group?" When making mating decisions, it can be more challenging to select an appropriate bull to breed to a cow herd that is quite inconsistent in terms of breed composition, weight, frame size, muscling, milking ability, etc. By tightening up the breed makeup and trait performance levels of breeding females, the task of choosing a herd sire can focus more closely on matching the specific genetic improvement needs of the typical herd female. The breeder does not have to be as concerned about trying to find a herd sire that works well on females at far apart performance ends of a trait spectrum.

Putting in place planned crossbreeding programs is a means of working towards improved breed composition uniformity in commercial herds. The amount of hybrid vigor captured from crossbreeding systems depends upon the similarity or lack thereof of

females and males mated together. To make best use of breed complementary and hybrid vigor, it is simpler to match sire breeds to breeding groups when the breeding group is more uniform in breed composition from the start.

Matching appropriate cattle genetics to production environment is critical for optimizing performance. When a producer finds cattle lines and breed compositions that perform well in a given production environment, it is logical that a uniform herd with those genetics may outperform a less uniform herd that contains some cattle that are not as adapted to perform well in that setting. Matching is the key word here. Match cattle to the production environment for best results. By doing this, cattle will be more uniform in their adaptability to the local environment.

More of the Same Birth Dates

Controlled breeding and calving season, controlled breeding and calving season, controlled breeding and calving season. Enough said. By managing breeding dates to have cattle bred within a defined and limited time frame, much is accomplished. Uniformity to breeding dates naturally means that the subsequent calving dates will be uniform.

There are numerous advantages to this from a management perspective. It allows for closer monitoring of calving when all calves are expected to be born within a tight time window as opposed to watching for calves year round. Management practices such as vaccinations and weaning can be done at one time to calves close in age and help to avoid extra cattle handling events or poor timing of management practice implementation.

Having more calves of similar age facilitates contemporary grouping of more head in each group. Performance calculation standards such as for adjusted weights specify that cattle be within particular age ranges when data are collected. Having more uniform calving dates makes choosing weight collection dates more flexible in accommodating performance calculation standards before cattle in a group start to fall outside of allowable age windows for data collection.

Arguably one of the greatest advantages to implementing a controlled breeding program is when it is done in a way that best matches cattle nutrient demands by stage of production to forage-based nutritional programs. Having the periods when the most nutrients per land area available from grazing match up with the periods when the herds have the greatest need for those nutrients makes economic sense and can reduce the need for additional labor and expense associated with providing supplemental feeds or mechanically harvest stored forages to cattle.

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